ESQUIMALT, B.C. – Suneil Karod picked up his first win as a VIJHL head coach when his Victoria Cougars downed the Saanich Braves 4-1 on Thursday night.
After serving as an assistant for the past seven years, Karod took over the reins following the sudden departure of Mark Van Helvoirt.
Victoria, which got goals from Owen Dalman, Nick Gomerich, Grayden Hohl, and Jordan Passmore, never trailed in the game.
The crosstown rivals entered the second period tied 1-1 but a beautiful snipe off the stick of Gomerich with just less than seven minutes in would give the Cougars a lead they would not relinquish.
Anthony Ciurro kept his team in the game with Saanich buzzing on the power play in the third period, making three huge saves while Victoria played two men short for over a minute.
The American stopped 25 shots en route to his 56th career victory.
Playing without defenseman Jake Calverley (suspension) and Kyle Wade (lower body injury), the Cougars jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an unassisted goal from Dalman at 10:49 of the first period.
Akila Sato-Gaudreau centered the puck out front from the corner which bounced off a Braves defender. Riley Mathieson made a reflex save but Dalman positioned himself perfectly at the edge of the crease just in time to bang home the rebound.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Nick Guerra used a quick backhand to beat Ciurro for a breakaway goal at 11:58.
Guerra has been a pleasant surprise for Saanich, notching his sixth goal and eighth point in only three games.
The Braves drop to 2-1-0-0 on the season.
Gomerich, whose favourite NHL player is Steven Stamkos, scored the go-ahead goal at 6:50 of the middle frame after wiring a Stamkos-like wrist shot off the crossbar and in.
The Cougars got into penalty trouble in the third period. Saanich received four power plays which included a two-man advantage for one minute and 14-seconds.
However, Victoria escaped unscathed, thanks to some exceptional penalty killing and some timely saves from Ciurro.
Hohl would give the Cougars a 3-1 lead after converting on an odd-man rush, sending a perfectly placed wrister over the catching glove of Mathieson.
Connor Birmingham, all 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds of him, took an untimely roughing penalty late in the game for Saanich.
Victoria would make the Braves pay with just 52.9 seconds remaining in regulation after Passmore banged home a Tyler Pang point shot.
Mathieson finished with 37 saves.
The Cougars went 1-for-2 with the man advantage; meanwhile, Saanich went 0-for-6.
Dalman, Gomerich, and Hohl each finished with two points apiece.
Elsewhere in the VIJHL, Trent Bell scored 29 seconds into overtime to lead the Nanaimo Buccaneers to a 7-6 win over the Oceanside Generals.
Next game for Victoria is Friday, September 9 versus the Campbell River Storm. Game time at Rod Brind’Amour Arena, located at 225 Dogwood Street, is 7:30 p.m.
1st star, Anthony Ciurro (Saves: 25, Save Percentage: .962)
2nd star, Avery Hill (Goals: 0, Assists: 0)
3rd star, Grayden Hohl (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)